You’ve written a book! Congratulations, you’ve just accomplished the biggest step towards a successful indie writing career, but wait; you’ve been published for six months, and you’ve only sold two copies of your e-book. You joined all the prominent communities on Google + and a plethora of groups on Linkedin. All the people you speak to say they’re best sellers; they sell several copies of their books everyday; they’re rich and only work day jobs because they want to. They make hundreds of thousands of dollars off their one book, and you want to as well, but no one gives you a straight answer on how to do that. None of those rich indie writers can tell you anything more than “I do signings at my local book store”, or “I sell dozens of copies every time I do a signing”, or “I just Tweet about my book, and everyone buys it”, yet there you are with your two sold copies.
What went wrong? Nothing. Those other people are lying to you.
Here’s the truth; you’re doing just as well as everyone else, maybe even better. Take a look at the math.
You publish one e-book to Amazon’s KDP select at $.99, which yields about $.35. If you sell one copy, yes, just one copy, every day that’s 365 x $.35 = $127.75 per year supposing you do sell an e-book everyday, which would put you in Amazon’s top 100 easy, and if you follow up on those other writers, you’ll see their book–or books–is somewhere in the millions range. That means they aren’t selling one copy every day, much less enough copies to hit 5,000 a year to be a real best seller.
Certainly, they may have 400 5 star reviews, but they get those by trading their e-book with another author, and each author gives the book a 5 star review for a 5 star review, an abhorrent practice as it makes readers think they’re buying a quality product when in fact it’s barely mediocre (always read the couple of 2 star reviews the authors have for a real look into how good the book is. Those are real reviews by real readers).
Well, gee, that does sound awful, but I don’t care about that. I want to know how I can make a living off $127.75 a year. You can’t. You have to write more books, yet to even break $10,000 a year, on which you still cannot earn a living, you must sell about 80 e-books every day, so if you have written 80 e-books, and you sell one of each of them every day, you can make $10,200 every year.
But those rich, best-selling, indie authors don’t have 80 books. No, they don’t, further evidence that they’re not telling the truth, and it’s this that leads me to question Amanda Hocking’s success, but I’ve written about her before; she has several traditional print contracts with imprints from larger companies. Even James Crouch has a literary agent.
I don’t have contracts or an agent. Why do people become indie writers if they can’t make a living, and why do they lie?
Well, crazy people do crazy things, and I’d like to believe that an indie writer can make it big. I’ve talked to some writers that seem successful, and I stay positive and force myself to believe that it can be done because I need to believe that a self made person can be successful, but if you’re writing in the hopes of getting rich, you better pander to the masses, hire a team of professional editors, and write the next big book-to-movie product or you’re outta gas. Indie writers write for themselves and for the fans, which means you need to release a perfect product all on your own and abstain from trading 5 star reviews with other authors for 5 star reviews. You need to get real reviews from professional reviewers, so readers won’t be disappointed in your product and write a revenge review- an evil review to deter everyone else from even taking a chance on you.
But that will cost upwards of a $100 or more! Yes, it will, so write for the sake of telling the story!
Now, I’ve read Linkedin posts about authors who travel the country and sell print copies of their books. Let’s take a look at the math again.
A print copy of a full length book–300 pages of a 9 by 6 copy–can be priced about as low as $10 from which you’ll only make about $3 after someone makes a purchase via Amazon, so selling those at one copy per day for a year gets you $1,095, which means you need to sell about 10 copies per day, or have 10 print books available and sell one of each every day for $10,950 per year. These authors, who are supposedly showing up at places across the country, talk about buying their own copies, traveling, booking a venue, and selling their books to people. The cost of buying your own books and traveling can be astronomical.
One author purchase of a print book is half of the price, so $5 per book if it’s priced at $10, which you then sell at $10, unless you jack up the price because its signed, so we’ll even say $15 per book. How many books would you have to sell to make up your losses; that is, the cost of buying the books, traveling, and booking the venue? While you’re doing this, you can’t work your day job, either, so how much are you losing there? If you buy 1,000 print copies, that’s $5,000 dollars! Then, you have to travel the country, book hotel stays, book a venue through which you can sell and hope that people show. If you sell all your books, which won’t happen until after you’ve spent years amassing a fan base, at $15 per book that’s only $15,000 minus the $5,000 of the books purchased, which is only $10,000 minus the travelling expenses!
Don’t buy into the guff! Please, please, please don’t buy into the guff. The cold truth is that most indie writers, ones who have been on the market for less than 5 years, are probably selling one book a month, maybe less. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and money to promote your book.
This isn’t meant to be discouraging, on the contrary, it should be uplifting to know that you aren’t doing any worse than anyone else. The trick is to keep at it.
Also, get away from promotions with KDP select, which prevents you from publishing elsewhere. In fact, you may want to rid yourself of Amazon altogether; check your sales and payments, and double check your Kindle Pages Read. I promise you, Amazon is stealing from you.
Buy 5 or so print copies and do giveaways on Goodreads, blog about your books, your writing, your life. Learn the intricacies of editing and sell your services to others, but for the sake of the readers, make certain that if you do do that (heh, do do) you understand what editing is.
You can learn more about editing here.
So, to answer your question; how can I make it big? The truth is that without an agent or a big contract from a major publisher, you’re looking at peanuts, but still, writing 80 books and selling each of them every day isn’t that daunting…well maybe it is….
Write because you love it, write because you have a story to tell, write because you want readers to enjoy a mental vacation, and all the while, hone your art. You should want to break into the mainstream world; there’s nothing wrong with that.
Stephen King is a big time writer, yet he also self-publishes his own books, and he writes from a small indie press, too. Do it all. Stay positive. Keep looking for new and inventive ways to market your writing. Do what others haven’t, but don’t listen to the guff, don’t get discouraged, and if you do find someone who says they’re doing phenomenally well, have them prove it then ask them what they did.
I wanted to copy Amanda Hocking’s meteoric rise to indie stardom, and that’s how I learned a lot of this information.
So far, everyone I’ve looked into, every indie writer that is, has not become successful on their own; they have had help from editors, publishers, agents, professional marketers, etc.
Today, everyone and their mum writes books and publishes to Amazon, and some people even publish through an indie press like Del Ray, but even then, even with a renown indie press, you’re still not going to see a book sale everyday, so it takes a gargantuan effort to be a youngish, quit-your-day-job, indie author, and if you are one, or you know one, talk to me. I’d like to see some real proof and hopefully a marketing plan because I want to make it big, too.
But wait, don’t some authors get advances?
They certainly do, but the advances from an indie press are somewhere between $100 and $5,000 dollars, and that’s cash that they have to earn back before you start getting royalties, so if you do get the advance, but fail to sell enough copies to recoup that advance, you don’t get squat after the advance!
As a final note, if you are an indie writer, please do your best to release a perfect product; don’t help flood the market with mediocrity. It’s bad for business, it’s bad for the indie writing name, and it’s bad for the readers. It’s these bad practices that send people running when they see the word indie before the word writer, and then they end up buying the mainstream crap that’s peddled today, and worst of all for you, when an agent or publisher sees that you’re an indie writer, they won’t touch you unless you can prove thousands of sales.
Be honest, be positive, and do your best. Thanks.